The Flash stops a robbery but the culprits get away after shooting a guard, and The Flash chooses to save the man instead of following the criminals. Joe shows Barry a book of suspects and Barry identifies Leonard Snart as the leader of the group. While investigating the case, Barry gets a surprise visit from an old friend –Felicity Smoak, who heard about his new abilities and came to check them out for herself. She joins him at S.T.A.R. Labs to help stop Snart after it’s revealed that Snart his gotten his hands on a stolen “cold gun,” which could kill The Flash. Dr. Wells is furious when he finds out that Cisco built the cold gun without telling anyone—having it on hand in case Barry woke up from his coma a psychopath–and now it’s missing. Snart uses the gun to stage a diamond heist, and then, after realizing The Flash’s “weakness” is his need to save people, he derails a trail to get away. The Flash is able to save everyone, but Snart stops him with the freeze gun; Cisco, Felicity, and Caitlin show up with a new prototype that could inflict way more damage on Snart, who surrenders but escapes. Cisco reveals it was actually a vacuum cleaner, and the team makes amends. Meanwhile, Iris is getting the silent treatment from Joe because of her relationship with Eddie, which Joe admits is really because it makes him unable to see Eddie as a partner. However, Eddie saves him during the chase for Snart, and he decides he’s a capable partner and boyfriend after all. Felicity departs for Starling, and even after everyone pressed for Barry and Felicity to get together, and Felicity admits they are perfect for each other, they both acknowledge that they are pining after other people they can’t be with. They share a kiss, and go their separate ways. Afterwards, Snart—aka Captain Cold now—meets with an old friend, and gives him a heat gun, offering to team-up to take down The Flash.
This week’s The Flash is its first major crossover with Arrow, including major continuations of Barry’s story from “The Scientist”/“Three Ghosts,” and significant development for the Arrow character Felicity Smoak. And yet, this episode feels the most distinct from Arrow we’ve gotten thus far. It’s to be expected that any spin-off take a little bit of time figuring out its identity, but the process of resolving those danging threads seems to have sped up the process considerably.
Much of that might have to do with the dream team of director Glen Winter and writers Geoff Johns, along with writer Kai Yu Wu (from Hannibal, oddly enough.) Winter and Johns notably worked together on the Smallville episode “Legion,” the first big Geoff Johns episode of a live-action comic book show. That episode was both one of Smallville season eight’s most exciting and refreshing episodes, but also its weirdest up until that point, sticking out like a sore thumb after the season’s moody and character-centric first half. It’s the most meta Smallville had gotten by that point, and with all its 31st century time travel, fanservice-y Persuader appearance, and brainfreezing Chloiac plot, it was the most the show had dived into its own comic book universe origins to that extent. The show changed after that episode—for better or worse, depending on who you ask—and it became more willing to bring in obscure DC characters week-to-week in costumes nearly lifted from the page. It got more self-referential, more wacky, more comic book-y, and generally lighter.
It’s worth mentioning because “Legion” shares a very similar tone to “Going Rogue” and The Flash as a whole, but with similar-yet-different results. Captain Cold is ripped from the page, all the characters acknowledge their respective places in the story, and there’s a general self-awareness about all the proceedings. It’s light, funny, and wacky, with shades of pathos around the edges, and everyone seems fully in-tune with the world they’re in and what they need to do next. But while “Legion” was a new kind of episode for Smallville and marked a turning point, “Going Rogue” feels like this is what the show always was from the beginning. Felicity, in fact, fits into The Flash better than she does Arrow, at least conceptually. This episode makes a strong case that The Flash pretty much took the traits that made Felicity such a breakout and built a whole world around them, as Central City is full of quirky, fast-talking, awkward geeky youth. Hell, even Joe’s frequent tears are more akin to Felicity than his natural parallel in Quentin. This is in no way necessarily a flaw; the charm of The Flash is how it grasps the fun and joy of being a good guy with cool powers and good friends, and Felicity’s archetype is an easy way to get that across. So in bringing Felicity to Central City, suddenly the show calls all this to our attention.
But “Going Rogue” succeeds with this in a much more surprising manner. Felicity and Barry spend much of the episode playing up the will they/won’t they, but mostly because of outside sources telling them they should. Grant Gustin and Emily Bett Rickards have no less chemistry than they did in Arrow, so it’s hard to not be on board with Iris’s incessant attempts to force them together. Felicity fits in well with the team, too—for the aforementioned reasons—but she brings a different enough vibe to the proceedings to shake things up a bit. The show admittedly plays up her “specialness” to a slightly annoying extent; Dr. Wells exposits a long, mostly boring history of why Felicity is so awesome that’s somehow the most backstory we’ve ever gotten for her, for example, but luckily that barely register in the grand scheme.
It’s the final train scene that really has the characters click. Barry and Felicity open up to one another in a very refreshingly upfront way, and the episode is very satisfying because of that acknowledgement. It’s a very different type of scene from one that Arrow—or really, a lot of shows like this—would do, and much of that has to do with the types of characters Gustin and Rickards have set up. This an open acknowledgement of their feelings for one another and other people, with a necessary lack of subtext and drama bubbling underneath. It’s rare to see characters so straightforward with each other, and as a result, it seems to reflect the relationship between Arrow and The Flash as a whole, too. Felicity and Barry are two sides of the same coin, and representatives of their respective interconnected shows. But despite how connected they are, the places they belong are are quite the opposite. Arrow is a gloomy, moody, gritty show; The Flash is light, funny, and whimsical. They are tightly entwined, but can only survive if they operate independently, barring the occasional crossover here and there.
It’s significant that this episode is the first to not feature a metahuman, in that sense, keeping the world from being too wacky when it’s crossed over with Arrow. Captain Cold as he’s portrayed here is an amalgam of a typical Arrow villain and a Flash villain, with Arrow‘s penchant for casting a renowned genre actor to deliver flowery-written lines and The Flash‘s general ridiculousness and straightforward adaptations.
As such, Leonard Snart is the best villain of the show thus far, with a chilling performance (no pun intended) from Wentworth Miller that’s unnerving because how much he underplays it against an otherwise over-the-top show. He still relishes in the part and chews the scenery, but he’s also impenetrably stoic the entire time, which makes his “escape,” while up against the thought-to-be prototype freeze cannon, both scary and funny. There’s a little too much leaning on the cold puns at first, what with “Keep your cool” and “We don’t need the heat” and such, but Snart surprisingly chills out as soon as he gets his hands on the actual freezing weapon. Snart as a character isn’t that interesting—he’s a criminal who likes to do crime, because whatever—but Miller hooks into that concept, making Snart about as sociopathic he can get without going too broad. His final costume also fits in wonderfully, striking a good balance between realism and looking exactly like his counterpart. This is an example of a solid and faithful adaptation all-around, and it’s good we’re already setting up his potential return with a supervillain team-up.
A disappointing side is that this is also sorta kinda a Cisco-centric episode, barely. This is the first episode with no flashbacks, which means we don’t learn much new about Cisco’s backstory, but his contribution to the actual plot is more significant than Felicity’s. That’s a bit frustrating considering how Cisco needs the most development to keep him from teetering off the edge of comic relief and into annoying. He’s not there yet, and the reveal of some of his motivations this week help round him out, but there’s more work to be done.
That said, what he does is exceptionally well-plotted; Cisco built a weapon that could kill Barry in the event that he woke up psychotic, which is a perfectly viable reason considering how all other metahumans thus far have turned out. And Barry probably could have had a more understanding reaction, if that weapon hadn’t fallen into Captain Cold’s hands and been used to kill the first person Barry has directly failed to save. So with this STAR Labs weapon concept, we get the creation of Captain Cold, a glimpse into the dark side of Cisco’s genre-savvy psyche, we see Barry process the grief of failure, we see the STAR Labs team fracture and subsequently repair themselves, and we even get the first major acknowledgement to other characters that Wells is a little unhinged. There’s actually quite a big chunk of character and plot development packed into this little thread, which enriches an episode that still otherwise worked because of its humor. The reveal that Cisco’s new weapon is actually a STAR Labs vacuum “with a lot of LEDs” is a perfect capper to the comical hour, and a fitting resolution for a Cisco-based plot.
The action is also awesome overall, with the train crash sequence easily on top as this show’s best effect thus far. The actual images of Barry in bullet time saving the last woman aren’t too refined, but that’s the only smudge on an otherwise breathtaking sequence. What Arrow has in stunt choreography, The Flash is slowly building for itself as the best in TV superhero effects. The freeze gun effects are hit-or-miss much of the time, though, but that might just be the nature of that kind of effect. Even the lightning around Barry’s red streak is a little cartoony, so it might be a case of the show embracing the less-realistic looking effects for its more outlandish things. That might be a wise decision to get us used to it for when things get inevitably crazier down the line.
Until they do, though, “Going Rogue” stands up as the best episode of the show thus far. This is the lightest and most comedic the show has gotten—especially in its quippy, joke-heavy first half—but it never ceases to add layers to the characters and play with their dynamics. It’s also, again, lots and lots of fun, with the best villain we’ve seen and an appearance from Felicity that was not as self-indulgent as it could have been. The Flash excels with just enough character and drama that it’s able to otherwise succeed by just being—and I’m really, really sorry for this—cool.
Odds & Ends
- The Iris/Eddie subplot is kind of a slog, the sort of obligatory early season plot that keeps the two in a holding pattern until they become useful. It doesn’t help that the “no more secrets even though there are secrets” bit between Iris and Joe directly contrasts the refreshing Barry/Felicity stuff, which highlights the tiredness of that trope.
- That said, the awkward radio gag with Eddie and Joe in the car is hilarious.
- Why can’t we just go ahead and call him The Flash? Smallville ran all variations of the coy non-naming joke into the ground, and Arrow at least let it make sense thematically by forcing Oliver to grow from murdering vigilante before he could adopt the Arrow moniker. But tiptoeing around The Flash by using “Streak” and “Blur” is just so awkward and nonsensical.
- Converse is the worst type of shoe for Barry to wear if they’re going to catch on fire all the time. They’re made of thin material and they’re expensive. It’s the worst possible choice.
- Barry’s reaction to Cisco asking if he knows The Arrow’s identity is hysterical.
- E=MC Hammer is perfect.
- So, Wells telling Cisco to “never do anything like that again”–is he referring to building the weapon, or saving Barry? He already expressed his anger about the former, but if it’s the latter, it would play into this future stuff, where Wells wants Barry to get out of the obstacles on his own and learn from them rather than his friends saving him. Tom Cavanaugh is more overtly ominous in general this week, and time will tell what the endgame is.
- “And she happens to come from your very rare species of adorable nerds.” Is that a subset of the “hot nerd,” or are the two terms synonymous? Any relation to “hot librarian”?
- “The lightning didn’t just give me speed, it also gave me friends.” – I think we’ll just have to accept that Barry’s monologues are going to be the cheesiest of cheesy just because Barry’s a big dork anyway.
- “Leonard? That’s almost as bad as Bartholomew.”
- “The internet is full of weirdos and nerdrage. Lots and lots of nerdrage.”
- “Stay safe. And I’m talking to air now. Which is odd. I’m still doing it…”
- “Ow! That was not as badass as I pictured.”